A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Princess Mononoke is a 1997 Miyazaki-directed anime in which a young warrior, stricken by a deadly curse, must find a way to rescue the forests of the west. This movie is darker and more intense than many of Hayao Miyazaki's other classics. Although it's an animated fantasy, it boasts the scope and grandeur of a live-action historical epic and has many battle scenes and other violent sequences, as well as additional gruesome elements. Characters do battle with rifles, swords, bows and arrows, grenades, and poison darts. There are scenes in which characters are decapitated, or lose their limbs in battle. In terms of profanity, a character compares soup to "super donkey piss." Mention is made of the female rifle makers of Iron Town being former prostitutes. While it's probably too much for most younger kids, older tweens will be thrilled and engrossed, and teens will love it.
What's the story?
PRINCESS MONONOKE begins in 15th century Japan, as Ashitaka, a young prince from a remote tribe, is cursed by a dying boar god from the forest region of western Japan. His journey to the source of the curse takes him to Iron Town. There Lady Eboshi runs an operation that smelts ore taken from the surrounding mountains once dominated by wolves and boars. Ashitaka is drawn to San, a girl raised by wolves. Together they work to try to stop Lady Eboshi and the corrupt monk Jigo from waging war on the animals.
Is it any good?
This film is a masterwork of animated storytelling from Hayao Miyazaki, the director of My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. Charting an epic battle of humans versus gods in old Japan, it's filled with adventure and beauty. It boasts the scope and grandeur of a live-action historical epic yet also has the fantastic elements of animation. These elements, in the form of talking animals and a magical forest spirit, are treated with utmost realism. The animals debate their plight with dead seriousness and attack humans in murderous rage. They're nothing like the talking animals in Disney features.
The English dub employs several name actors. They all do a splendid job, which can only help Princess Mononoke's acceptance. The only awkward note is sounded by the mix of accents among the cast, from Lady Eboshi's British accent (Minnie Driver) to the monk Jigo's Southern accent (Billy Bob Thornton) to San's modern American teenaged inflections (Claire Danes). Billy Crudup has a neutral accent and carries the entire film as Ashitaka, conveying the moral dilemma of a young outsider caught between two worlds. The other name players include Gillian Anderson as the wolf god Moro, Jada Pinkett-Smith as Toki, and Keith David as boar god Okkoto. The question of its suitability for kids will spark debate, although kids who see it will not soon forget it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role of violence in Princess Mononoke and in real life. How does the impact of the violence in this movie compare to live-action films?
What audience do you think this movie is most likely to appeal to? Why? Who do you think it's intended for?
How does this movie convey the message and debate between the protection of the environment versus the belief that it's the right to use and exploit all the resources of the planet to suit mankind's wants and needs?
- In theaters: October 29, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: July 20, 2000
- Cast: Akira Nagoya, Yoji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida
- Director: Hayao Miyazaki
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses and Fairies, Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Wild Animals
- Run time: 133 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: images of violence and gore
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.